A story and a rant on health care.

As you've probably gathered, there's no real "theme" to this blog, other than "things that Tim (and now Shayne) obsesses about". With that in mind, what I post about most often is, of course, myself, but politics and religion also usually factor in prominently. I generally know my stuff when it comes to myself and religion, but I'm a bit of a hack when it comes to politics. All of this to give you advance warning that over the next few months leading up to the American Presidential elections, you're probably going to be reading a lot of amateurish political arguments in this space.

To kick things off, Angel and I have been complaining about the US health-care system again for the last several days, and I realized that there might be an interesting story in our situation. This weekend in particular we got to moaning because Angel received a letter in the mail informing her that her employee insurance was being canceled, because being in the last semester of her nursing program she's been unable to work the requisite 20 hours a week to maintain coverage. The good news is that if she wishes, she can keep that insurance for $425/month, or can get insurance through the University of Washington for $1000/10 weeks. The bad news is that we can't even come close to affording that right now without taking out a loan. She can't work because of school, and I make right about $31,000/year between my two jobs. Do the math, and $425/month is about 20% of our present income. Being that we live in Seattle and are working on paying down my student loans and a reasonable mortgage, Angel has temporarily joined the ranks of the 44-45 million uninsured in America. I, on the other hand, am maintaining $75/month private coverage, which means that if I have a medical bill over $2500, we'll only have to pay 20% of it (under $2500 and we pay 100%). I work for two socially-conscious and politically liberal non-profit organizations, both of which have good health-care coverage for employees. At both jobs I'm intentionally employed for a number of hours just below the threshold for medical coverage, because they can't afford to pay insurance costs (or have chosen not to pay insurance costs?) for an additional employee.

I'm not pitching this as a woe is me story, because in some ways we've chosen our lot, and we could still be covered if we really wanted to. I was getting insurance through my job at the warehouse, but decided that it was worth dropping to have a more rewarding and socially responsible--though ultimately lower paying--job. Angel could have chosen not to go to grad school, or to go part time in order to maintain her level of employment. We also could probably afford coverage now had we not decided to buy a home. Ours isn't a large problem of social justice, and for us going without insurance isn't a major risk because we're young and healthy, and could still probably recover from a large medical debt. Our situation is something to think about though, because I think we're representative of a large and generally invisible demographic of people who are uninsured. We're not poor, we're not sick, and a lack of insurance is probably both temporary and benign.

What I am asking though is what our situation says about the social wisdom in the American set up? Angel and I have both faced negative pressure against improving our lot in life because we've wanted to maintain insurance coverage. If we had any chronic illness, pregnancy, or other major medical cost, either I would have continued to work in a dead-end warehouse job, she would have not gone to grad school, or we would have not purchased a home. We're both people who have been preparing for work in jobs that will benefit society, but would likely not have been able to do so had we not been willing to take (unnecessary) risks and lucky enough to be healthy. We're still presently in a situation where a nasty fall or an unexpected pregnancy could put us in a hole that we might not be able to dig our way out of. Medical bankruptcy is a real possibility until we're well insured--and society of course foots the bill on that one. Is our "freedom" to be insured or not really a positive thing for us or anyone else? Aren't health-care costs creating problems beyond just illness? Wouldn't the "American Dream" be more accessible without this so-called freedom?

Which is one more thing that leads me to say raise our taxes and put in place a social safety net that reaches across the population. Regulate the health-care industry and admit that the way we've been doing things in this area is ass-backwards. Quit with all of the ideological BS and figure out how to do it. I don't care if it's federal or state by state. Stop voting for people who support the status quo on health-care and social programming and start voting with the international evidence. The situation we've got isn't good for anyone.

(Oh, and watch The Edukators.)


Anonymous said…
you and i make about the same money. i work 40hr weeks at one job however. i have free health care. and if i had a rotten spouse, she'd have it free too, as well as our potential future brats. so, i'm not too worried about health care.

i'm not against your universal health per se, i just hope to hell it doesnt become a joke like social security, into which i pay expecting never to receive.